Beekeeper produces honey, creams thanks to Philly’s Flora

PHILADELPHIA – Those unfamiliar with the city of Philadelphia do not know that it is rich in green spaces and parks.

One of the city’s most popular and popular parks has been a boon to local beekeepers whose bees thrive on native flora and produce honey and wax. Norris Childs has been keeping bees in Philadelphia for nearly 40 years after a Peace Corps friend turned him on to his hobby.

The children live next to Wissahickon Valley Park in the Germantown section of town.

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The park told Patch that it provides plenty of nectar and pollen for its many bees, which produced about 4 gallons of honey this summer and are expected to produce just as much in the fall.

“They need nectar and pollen for the colony,” she said of her bees.

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Fortunately, being so close to abundant green space provides bees with flowers from mid-March to late October. She said skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to bloom in the area and her bees collect pollen from the plant to feed their babies.

Once the skunk cabbage is established, flowering plants such as tulips, poplars, black locust, maples, and lindens bloom, providing bees with more forage for nectar and pollen.

Children said that he harvests honey in early July and that summer honey has a different flavor than late spring-early fall honey.

Subsequent batches of honey are often made from the nectar of plants such as aster and goldenrod.

But it’s all good for Childs, who says she loves all kinds of honey.

He even likes a new type of honey that incorporates an aspect of the hated Speckled Lantern fly.

According to Childs, the invasive species has a secretion that bees pick up and then add to their honey-making mixture.

The end result is a sweeter honey, he said.

The kids said that the whole beekeeping process is relatively easy: you buy bee boxes, you buy bees, you put the bees in the boxes and let them do their thing.

This is mostly a passive activity, but beekeepers should regularly check their colonies to make sure they are not infected with any diseases or mites from Asia that can destroy a colony in about two years if left untreated. Childs said mites were not a problem when he started beekeeping, as they became a problem in the United States in the early 90s.

And, of course, there is the honey harvest, which, as mentioned above, happens twice a season.

Childs said he got about 45 gallons of honey during the July harvest, but last year’s harvest yielded about 60 gallons each.

“The most original way [to harvest honey] is to comb the wax and honey out of the frame and into the bucket,” he said. “The wax floats to the top and the honey sinks to the bottom. Then you can pour it or whatever into a bottle or put it in a cheesecloth or a paint strainer.”

Children have their own way.

“I take the frame out and cut the wax off the comb and put the frame in the machine that spins and removes the honey,” he said.

The honey then drips into the container in which the honey is packaged.

Scoring does not come without its dangers.

“Hundreds and hundreds of times,” Childs said when asked how many times he had been stung. “It doesn’t hurt too much after a minute or two.”

Childs has a lot of beekeeping clothes, and he said he really only uses them when he’s harvesting, and he keeps them on his property not often when he’s inspecting bees.

“If I’m going to steal their honey, I’m going to have to wear a dress,” she said.

Even with full gear, Childs said there’s a chance of a bite.

“They will find any gap in clothing and equipment to hurt you,” he said. “If you don’t wear an ankle strap, they’ll ride up your pants, and that’s something you don’t want.”

Many beekeepers save the wax for candles or creams.

And in addition to Childs honey, she also makes her own beeswax-based skin creams.

She started selling her honey and creams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With fewer people driving and more walking, she decided to put a sign in the tree in front of her house advertising local sources of honey and wax products.

“Suddenly, people started calling me and asking about honey.

Childs sells her products out of her home, and interested buyers can contact her online to get the Philly-made honey.

Its skin creams are made with natural beeswax, coconut oil, almond oil and have flavors like sandalwood and eucalyptus.

Childs is also president of the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild, which was formed about 13 years ago and hosts Honeyfest in Philadelphia.

Honeyfest was held over three days in early September at Wyck and Bartram’s Garden in Germantown, Glen Foerd.

Events and activities include beekeeping demonstrations, sales of honey and other bee products, educational activities, and even a man covered in bees.

Although 2022’s Honeyfest has passed, Childs is looking forward to the 14th iteration of Honeyfest next year.

Learn about the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild online here.


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